European shares ease from 4-mth highs as miners weigh

Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:11am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.4 pct

* Trading volume thin at 24 pct of the 90-day average

* ENRC down 7.4 pct after bearish update

* Standard Chartered rallies 5 pct after U.S. settlement

By Francesco Canepa

LONDON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - European shares were slightly lower in thin trade on Wednesday, consolidating four-month highs, as ENRC led a selloff in the heavyweight mining sector after a bearish update.

The Kazakh miner was the top faller, shedding 7.4 percent, after the group slashed its interim dividend as lower production volumes and price weakness in its steelmaking commodities dragged first-half profit down 41 percent.

Also dragging on the STOXX 600 Basic resources sector , down 2 percent, were shares trading ex-dividend, which included Rio Tinto, Anglo American, and Vedanta Resources.

They weighed on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which was down 0.2 percent at 1,100.29 at 1041 GMT after hitting a four-month closing high of 1,101.97 the previous day.

The index is up 8 percent since late July on expectations the European Central Bank may intervene in bond markets to help struggling debtor countries and that the Fed might launch a new round of money-printing to buoy the economy.

However, trading volume on the index was a mere 24 of its 90-day average, with many businesses in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece shut for Assumption Day holidays.

"There is a big story about asset reflation, driven by the belief that the Fed and the ECB are providing some sort of free 'put' and you can't really act against that," Emmanuel Cau, a strategist at JPMorgan said.

"But the market has already rerated quite a lot and the short squeeze is largely behind us as people have neutralized their negative bets."

The broader STOXX 600 index was trading at 10.14 times its expected earnings for the next 12 months, a level last seen late last year and within the index's one standard deviation, Datastream data showed.

Among the few heavily traded stocks was UK-listed bank Standard Chartered, up 5 percent in volume of more than one and a half time its full day average after it clinched a settlement with U.S. regulators over transactions linked to Iran, removing the threat of losing its New York state banking licence.

CHARTS STILL POINT UPWARD

Technical charts on the euro zone blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 , down 0.4 percent at 2,423.06 points on Wednesday, pointed to further upside in the coming weeks as resistance levels broken last week act as support and momentum remains strong.

"From a chartist point of view, a massive short squeeze occurred last week post ECB meeting. The upside breakout of the resistance threshold at 2,339 has triggered a bullish acceleration and this level is now likely to act as a key support threshold," Nicolas Suiffet, a technical analyst at Trading Central in Paris, said.

"Next resistance is set at 2,452, the closing price on March 29. A push above this level would open the way to a further rise towards 2,504 and the previous top at 2,611 in extension."

The Euro STOXX 50 index had been in a mild consolidation trend after forming a technical pattern known as a flag, formed by swings within a narrow range and suggesting a pause in low volume before the rally resumes.

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